Imagine winning your wife’s weight in beer and five times her weight in cash just for carrying her three football fields length, over a few logs, through a sand trap and a mud puddle. Does that sound like a really fun time or like a recipe for divorce?

A man carries his wife through a muddy swamp at Sunday River.

Photo by Greg Burke

Since 1999, “The North American Wife Carrying Championships” has drawn 50 competing couples and a huge crowd to the slopes of Sunday River in Maine. Surrounded by peak fall foliage, Columbus Weekend is the 14th annual wife carrying event that you have to see to believe. If you and your bride are excited, I am sorry to report that registration for October 12, 2013 is full. But you can start training now for 2014 by throwing your wife over your shoulder and hauling her around with her legs around your neck and her arms around your waist. That’s the classic “Estonian Carry” that allows the man to keep his hands free to forage obstacles over the 278-yard course of deep grass, dirt, logs, and the infamous “widow-maker” water hazard where your wife’s head will likely get dunked and dirty. It’s a scrappy fight to the finish, and a Finnish couple has won the event in under a minute four times now.

Sunday River fall foliage

Photo by Greg Burke

This crazy couples race roots back to 19th century Finland. Legend goes that “Ronkainen the Robber” tested Nordic men before admitting them to his rogue band. To prove their manly mettle, burley men ran a rough course with a woman grabbed from a local village on their back. This primeval pursuit is re-enacted to this day in Finland at the annual World Championship. Sunday River’s winning couple gains entry to the following summer’s final Finnish competition, in addition to the prize of racks of beer and a pile of cash – based on the wife’s pre-event weigh in. Interesting point: you do not actually have to be married, so you could literally pick a girl up in a bar and carry her through the course (must be over 21 and consenting).

Finish line at the wife carrying competition.

Photo by Greg Burke

Having witnessed the Wife Carrying Championships at Sunday River, I highly recommend being a spectator instead of throwing your relationship around. The Columbus Weekend event coincides with spectacular foliage in the Maine mountains, and Sunday River’s Fall Festival with chairlift rides, horse drawn wagon rides, an Arts and Craft Fair, and Taste of Maine food tents at the base of the ski slopes. My husband and I made a pact over a refreshing Maine IPA while watching the wife-carrying that our vows should probably have included “Til death or ’til you drop me in the mud do we part.”

Wife carrying contest winners

Photo by Greg Burke

 What do you think – would you participate?

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